What’s in Season from the Garden State: Legendary Jersey Tomatoes and the Role NJ Farmers Played in Selecting Winners

Lyman Schermerhorn (left), breeder of the Rutgers tomato, in a field of tomatoes. Circa 1930s.

Lyman Schermerhorn (left), breeder of the Rutgers tomato, in a field of tomatoes. Circa 1930s.

Several of the classic Jersey tomato varieties that were grown on New Jersey farms in the mid-20th century were actually developed in New Jersey, with much of the tomato breeding done at Rutgers or at Campbell’s Soup Company research facility in Riverton, NJ.

As the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) grew in capacity to provide research and outreach to New Jersey farms, it acquired off-campus research farms to accommodate the extensive work done on testing and developing plant varieties for New Jersey farmers. But before these research stations were established, a large portion of the trials was done right on New Jersey farms. [Read more...]

Professor Emeritus Bernard L. Pollack (1920 – 2014), Breeder of ‘Ramapo’ Tomato

Bernie Pollack on a visit to Cook Campus in 2008. Photo by Jack Rabin

Bernie Pollack on a visit to Cook Campus in 2008. Photo by Jack Rabin

Professor Emeritus of Plant Breeding and Genetics Bernard “Bernie” Pollack passed away on July 14, at the age of 94. Pollack joined Rutgers in 1960 as faculty in the Department of Horticulture and Forestry and retired in 1985. While his work in vegetable breeding extended to eggplant, pepper and tomatoes, Pollack is most renowned for his development of the Ramapo tomato, which offered New Jersey fresh market growers in the 1960s a tomato with quality, disease and crack resistance, and durability. Since the popularity of this tomato never waned despite its disappearance from the market, Pollack kept working during his retirement, assisting NJAES in bringing this variety back to market.

During the 1970s Pollack worked extensively with New Jersey growers conducting vegetable variety trials and implementing trickle irrigation and plasticulture systems. Working with USAID and the Peace Corps, he traveled throughout Africa to further the development of trickle irrigation in African agriculture. During his travels, he collected eggplant germplasm and created one of the most extensive collections, containing 536 eggplant varieties. Pollack worked on assessing exotic eggplant germplasm to develop valuable new traits for worldwide agriculture. [Read more...]

Rutgers NJAES and Board of Managers Host GMO Forum for New Jersey Farmers

"GMOs: Questions and Answers for New Jersey Farmers" was held on May 9 at the Rutgers EcoComplex.

The forum, “GMOs: Questions and Answers for New Jersey Farmers,” was held on May 9 at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown, NJ.

Since the early 1980s, the technology to select specific genetic traits from one organism and insert them into the genetic code of another organism, a process known as genetic engineering (GE) or modification (GM), has allowed scientists to create biological products that express traits that are otherwise not available in those products. When applied to agricultural commodities, this technology can offer farmers ways to improve their production.

The development of genetically engineered products has caused concern in consumers wary of the potential for inadvertent harm from consuming this enhanced food product or from introducing GM crops into the environment. The mix of messages in the media on the pros and cons of GM products has created an environment in which consumers and farmers alike have legitimate questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Farmers who are told of the advantages of GM products as a way to improve their production also face intense questioning from customers about the safety of GM crops. The need for farmers to have access to sound science and information to help them to make informed decisions about GM crops and how to respond to consumer concerns led the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) and its Board of Managers to host a forum, “GMOs: Questions and Answers for New Jersey Farmers,” at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown on May 9. [Read more...]

There’s Love for Local in New Jersey

NJ Ag mag photoDid you know New Jersey is a national leader in the local foods movement? We wouldn’t be called the Garden State if we didn’t take our agriculture seriously. Read more on how home cooks, restaurant chefs, school children and food pantries are tapping into Jersey Fresh produce at New Jersey Agriculture.

Seedy tale: Chinese researchers stole patented corn, U.S. prosecutors allege

The court documents read like something out of a Coen brothers film. Employees of the Chinese agricultural company Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (DBN) and a subsidiary sneaked through midwestern cornfields, U.S. prosecutors allege, stealthily gathering patented corn that they attempted to smuggle out of the United States in microwave popcorn boxes…Plant breeding research elsewhere in the world has benefited from advances in genomics and molecular markers, but plant breeding scientists in China do not work closely with researchers in those areas, says Carl Pray, an agriculture, food, and resource economics expert at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who has worked in China.

Read the entire article at news.sciencemag.org »